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More salmon, longer seasons could be on tap for area anglers

By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard  March 27, 2007

West Coast salmon anglers should catch a break next week. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, following an April 3 public hearing in Seattle, will make a final decision on 2007 ocean fishing regulations.

The council is expected to approve longer seasons for recreational and commercial salmon anglers in most Oregon and California offshore waters. The outlook for Washington and extreme northern Oregon waters, however, is murky.

Two positive developments make it possible for state and federal fishery managers to undo last year's drastic cuts in commercial and sport ocean salmon fishing.

One is that wild coho salmon runs in streams along the Oregon Coast continue to improve. That's important because the number of wild fish dictates how much sport fishing for hatchery coho is allowed in the ocean.

advertisement (Anglers may keep only hatchery fin-clipped fish, but the estimated "hooking mortality" among wild fish that are caught and released drives the harvest quotas for hatchery coho.)

This year's sport fishing quota could be as high as 50,000 coho in the management zone that extends from Cape Falcon south to the Oregon-California border, if the council adopts the most liberal of three "options" on the table. Other options provide for quotas of 40,000 or 15,000.

The latter option, while unlikely to be approved, is remarkable because it would allow the daily two-fish bag limit to include one coho with an intact adipose fin, something that hasn't been allowed in many years.

Last summer's coho quota south of Cape Falcon was 20,000 fish.

The council also seems poised to set season dates of June 23-Sept. 16, which would provide two weeks more fishing than last summer's regulations.

The second piece of positive news is that biologists predict more than 500,000 adult chinook salmon will return to the Klamath River this year - nearly five times the size of the 2006 run.

Depressed Klamath fall chinook stocks were the main factor in last year's virtual shutdown of the commercial salmon fishery along 700 miles of coast in Northern California and Southern Oregon. (The total West Coast commercial salmon harvest in 2006 was about 10 percent of normal).

Sport fishers should benefit from the improved chinook outlook in the Klamath Management Zone. However, the bulk of the fish returning to the Klamath River this year will be 3-year-olds, which are relatively small for "king" salmon.

While prospects are good for most Oregon and California ocean salmon anglers, a poor outlook for fall chinook salmon north of Cape Falcon will take some of the excitement out of the season in those waters, even though hatchery coho returns there should be good.

Depressed fall chinook salmon runs in Washington and in the lower Columbia likely will lead to fishing restrictions. Commercial and recreational fishermen from Cape Falcon northward may face a combined catch limit of no more than 36,000 fish.

Oregon fishery managers are even discussing possible restrictions on chinook fishing in the Columbia River, including closing

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